Celebrating 20 years of Lottery funding in St Albans district

St Stephens gardening club committee members Derrick Davis, Andrew Keates, Colin Leach and treasurer

St Stephens gardening club committee members Derrick Davis, Andrew Keates, Colin Leach and treasurer Martyn Dadswell outside their trading hut - Credit: Archant

St Albans Abbey Cathedral

St Albans Abbey Cathedral - Credit: Archant

St Albans has been awarded more than £26million in the last 20 years from The National Lottery.

Since the first draw on November 19 in 1994, 410 grants have been given to organisations and individuals here.

The largest ever Lottery grant for St Albans was £4.2m, set aside for The Cathedral and Abbey Church of St Alban, to ensure that the iconic site of local heritage was preserved for future generations.

However, the Abbey has only received a small initial grant and, in order to access the £4m, the Abbey needs to raise £3m itself by March 2016 to fund a £7m project.

The project, entitled ‘Alban, Britain’s First Saint: Telling the Whole Story’, will fill a major gap in national awareness of the origins and evolution of Christian Britain.

It will reveal the story of Alban and his importance to Britain’s cultural history.

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Named after Britain’s first saint and Christian martyr, and positioned on the site of longest continuous Christian worship in the UK, St Albans Cathedral has a significant and far reaching history, spanning over 1,700 years – but one which is largely unknown.

This transformational project will also draw on the remarkable physical survivals of the medieval shrines of Alban and Amphibalus, the unique wall paintings and striking architecture.

Plans include an innovative interpretation and activity programme, a new welcome centre, a redeveloped learning centre and updated facilities. They aim to enhance the learning and experience of visitors and change the way people perceive and enjoy the cathedral.

The Very Rev Dr Jeffrey John, Dean of St Albans Cathedral, said: “We feel strongly that far too few people realise the importance of St Alban as our first British saint and of St Albans Cathedral as our oldest place of Christian worship. The lottery grant will help us put this right.

“It will enable us to present Alban’s story and the amazingly rich heritage of the cathedral much more effectively. We shall rebuild the shrine of Amphibalus, which was destroyed in the Reformation and restore it to its original glory.

“And we shall have a beautiful new entrance building, with better facilities to welcome visitors and pilgrims. We are extremely grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund, and all who have supported this project – and to God.”

The smallest amount of Lottery money awarded in St Albans was £491 for St Stephens Horticultural Society to pay for a series of gardening evenings in the local community.

It has since changed its name to St Stephens Gardening Club to make it sound more accessible, welcoming and modern.

Chairman Graham Wilson said: “We used the money to hold events, to raise awareness and increase membership, because numbers had been on the decline and we were keen to turn it around. We were successful in that, and that was due in part to the funding received.”

Mr Wilson explained that the club, which was established in 1926, featured lectures, slides and guest speakers at the evening events, and produced a leaflet to help increase interest in the group, which went from having 150 household members to 250.

The club sells fertiliser and compost from a trading hut in Bricket Wood, puts on day trips, plant sales and an annual show, and members periodically open up their gardens to all other members.

Theatre company Trestle was awarded Capital Lottery funding 12 years ago to build its arts base but since then, the building has not benefitted directly from Lottery funding.

The Russet Drive-based company applies for Lottery funding to create and/or support touring productions.

One of those productions was Lost Dog - a dance theatre piece, in part, developed at Trestle Arts Base and then taken to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Sandringham School benefitted through workshops, delivered by the company in school and at Trestle Arts Base.

Another recent Trestle project was The Snow Queen - a touring production for children and families. Performed at the arts base, and then sent around England last year, it featured accompanying workshops for schools and families.

Trestle’s artistic director, Emily Gray, said: “Trestle is often a partner in Lottery funding applications, for artists and companies who want to come, develop and preview their work at Trestle Arts Base. Artists pay a reduced rate (which simply covers costs), for hiring spaces and working with Trestle staff as mentors.

“Lottery funding, in my view, is a very positive source of funding for artists making new work and sharing it with audiences. Generally, in my experience, it is a struggle for artists and organisations to secure lottery finding in Hertfordshire. This is because we have few areas of low engagement in the arts and Hertfordshire is not seen as a priority area.” Trestle received £1.5m in total.

Cash was also awarded to fund projects, such as the Town Hall Museum and Gallery (£2.7m) and Harpenden Sports Centre and swimming pool(£1.2m).

St Albans individuals have also received money through 121 winning prizes over £50,000. Twelve of those won a million or more. This means that St Albans ranks ninth, in terms of number of millionaires created per adult.

Jackie O’Sullivan, from the National Lottery, said: “In 20 years, The National Lottery has helped transform life in St Albans for the better, creating iconic cultural landmarks, empowering communities and developing world-class sporting talent.

“National Lottery players can be proud of the positive changes they have helped bring about, since the first draw in 1994.”